When you reside on this tiny island out in the Caribbean Sea, you live among folk with complexions that run the gamut of chocolate colour gradient – from white chocolate all the way up to the darkest cacao nib possible.
There is no such thing as a purebred Jamaican because there is no single physical or genetic trait that we all share. Our bloodlines reach out beyond these shores to Europe, Africa, Asia and beyond, so our Jamaican-ness is either defined by birthplace or naturalised citizenship. To that end – our motto rings true:
Out of Many, One People.
In this neck of the woods, no one kills you because you have the wrong skin tone. They kill you because you have what they desire – money, vehicle, jewellery… body – and it is unlikely that you are going to hand it to them on a silver platter. There are those of questionable mental health who will kill for the love of politics, and they show up in varying hues.
Family feuds and gang wars will sometimes lead to beheadings or bodies pumped full of lead but our news bulletins list only the names and ages of the victims. Physical descriptions appear only in the absence of such information – as mere identifiers, not character references.
For what can the skin tone tell of one’s character?
As much as I love avocados, I was not about to eat that one.
JB had always been friendly but something had shifted. She seemed agitated that day she showed up at my doorstep and I did not feel impressed to ask why. She wanted to know if I remembered asking her to obtain something through a sister she had overseas.
I did not, because I had not. What I did have, however, was a vivid recollection of her making an offer which I never pursued. I reminded her of that fact and she went ballistic for some reason.
She remembered differently and, as she stormed out through the front gate, I pondered whether she was losing her mind. That was the last time she actually spoke to me although I saw her in the community on a regular basis.
Then it happened.
Cloudless afternoon in rural Jamaica (2006)
My neighbour’s stereo is belting out lyrics about ‘Beulah Land’ and an ‘Unclouded Day’ yet future–
And I feel a longing in my bones.
This longing for a Better Land where stands a city, whose Builder and Maker is the Almighty God.
Depending on who you ask, Jamaicans may live in a veritable paradise (or not). But there are things that that can reach in and rock your world in ways that your counterparts in subdued areas of the globe would never understand.
If he were a Christian, I would probably call it ‘righteous’ indignation– his vociferous condemnation of those whose preferences differed from his own.
But righteousness was not high on his agenda. He just could not stand the thought of anyone whose faults differed from his own.
Since his tirade encroached on my personal space, I felt obligated to ask a question.
(I wonder, in retrospect, if I had a death wish)